SEMPORNA, Malaysia – The Philippines urged Malaysia on Monday (March 4th) to demonstrate "maximum tolerance" toward dozens of Islamic Filipinos seeking a territorial claim on a remote area of Borneo Island following two deadly shootouts with security personnel, AFP reported.
Convoys of armed vehicles moved toward affected areas of the state of Sabah after Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak ordered strengthened security in the face of what is being described as the country's worst security crisis in years.
Schools, stores and government offices are closed in the town of Semporna, and local residents are fleeing, passing the bodies of gunmen in the streets. At least 27 people are reportedly dead, following skirmishes between Malaysian security personnel and followers of Jamalul Kiram III, the Philippines-based sultan of Sulu.
His followers say they are defending his claim to Sabah, which was once controlled by the now-defunct sultanate.